On July 25th the Verona Town Council had a regular meeting. Unfortunately I was not able to attend, but I just watched the meeting. Here is a summary of what they discussed.
The meeting opened with a discussion of our legal obligations under our agreement with Fair Share Housing to re-zone a portion of Bloomfield Avenue (between Montrose and South Prospect) to make it more attractive for the development of multi-family housing. In past meetings, we discussed how our zoning in this area allows for new development only if the proportion of retail/office space and residential space is split 50/50. It also forbids residential development on the ground floor of a building. What our new proposed zoning would do is remove the 50/50 requirement, and allow for housing on the ground floor. The new zoning keeps the total height of the building at 3 stories/50 feet. A parking structure would also be allowed.
At the meeting on Monday night, our new legal council and planner came to the meeting to explain to the Council that the proposed new zoning, which will be called Town Center Mixed Use Zoning, was previously negotiated with Fair Share Housing and is therefore incredibly difficult to amend at this point. If you want to watch this conversation it happens at the beginning of the meeting. The Council will be introducing this zoning change at our next meeting and then it goes to the Planning Board for their comments.
The next significant conversation at the meeting was on the pool finances (13 min into the meeting). We have not raised pool rates for several years, and now we are overdue for an adjustment. We had plans to renovate the "baby pool" to add a splash park feature and zero entry pool, and it is still unclear if we can accomplish this construction in the amount that was allotted towards this project. In addition, we need to reline the main pool very soon, which will cost almost $500K. The pool is a utility - which means that it has to be self-sustaining. The memberships have to cover the costs (and debt) associated with the pool. Expect more conversations on this at future meetings.
Another conversation that occurred at the meeting was on the tree ordinance, which was implemented in 2019 (35 min into the meeting). It turns out that residents are filing for an increasing number of permits to remove trees, and 92% of those permits are for dead or dying trees. According to our ordinance, if your tree is dead or dying, you do not need to pay a permit fee. The time cost to evaluate these permits (168 in 2021 and 101 in 2022 to date) is extremely significant. Some ideas that were discussed at the meeting included hiring a forester to evaluate these permits, licensing tree removal companies, and adding fees for every permit. More analysis will be completed before the next conversation.
The Council introduced several ordinances that were discussed extensively at previous meetings, on the topics of 5G, wireless communication facilities, sump pumps, Grove Street parking, and police hiring procedures. The majority of the public hearings on these ordinances will be on the August 8th.
Under resolutions the Council passed a police anti-nepotism policy and authorized a contract with Northeast Sweepers for parts for our street sweeper.
In new business the Council discussed adding a new ordinance for veterans, specifically to clarify when certain tax benefits would go into effect for disabled veterans. The ordinance will be introduced at the next meeting.
The Council also discussed the Planning Board's development of the Master Plan. The Planning Board has begun a review of a draft of the plan, and there will be two special meetings where they will continue their comments: August 9th (on Zoom) and August 16th (in person only - Community Center Ballroom). I cannot stress enough how important it is for residents to participate in the Master Plan process. You can review a draft of it here: https://www.veronanj.org/planningboard.
Any comments on the meeting and items addressed should be sent to the entire Council here: https://www.veronanj.org/council.